Gun Violence Exploding with No Legislative Action

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Nancy West photo

Garry Rayno is's State House Bureau Chief. He is pictured in the press room at the State House in Concord.

By GARRY RAYNO, Distant Dome

Is New Hampshire living on borrowed time or just lucky?

Earlier this month when Gov. Chris Sununu was speaking to the National Convention of the National Rifle Association, the US District Attorney was charging 25-year-old Kyle Hendrickson of Berwick, Maine, for threatening to “shoot up a high school” in a SnapChat video shot in front of Portsmouth High School.

When he was arrested in Portland, Maine, he had among a number of firearms an AR-15 rifle — the rifle of choice for mass shootings these days — along with ammunition, a red-dot sight, and body armor.

A shotgun was found at his residence, and a handgun at a hotel he stayed at the day he filmed the threatening video.

He is being held at Strafford County House of Corrections until a grand jury meets May 19 to hear prosecutors present their case.

At the NRA convention, Sununu touted the state’s enhancements of gun rights like doing away with a concealed carry permit, so anyone qualified to have a handgun can carry it loaded and concealed.

And he touted the quick work of the legislature to pass a state law forbidding police from enforcing any new federal gun restrictions, despite the US Constitution’s 14th amendment that says the federal government trumps state powers.

However the current US Supreme Court appears to have a different interpretation of the amendment and has been giving states more and more authority unless of course it has to do with the 2nd amendment.

And that is not the only sobering news recently.

Just last week, a Webster man was arrested for setting off two pipe bombs in Weare, one of which injured a person stopping to check on something smoldering on the side of the road just before the device went off.

Dale Stewart, 54, was charged by the US Attorney with possessing an unregistered firearm, a destructive device, and possessing a destructive device unidentified by a serial number.

He will appear in US District Court in Concord on Tuesday and is being held on state charges for setting off the pipe bombs.

According to the charging documents, he set off two devices, one the night of April 26 and the other the morning of April 27 and had another pipe bomb in his vehicle when he was arrested.

While the number of incidents of attempted or threatened violence appear to be growing, a couple of decades ago, someone tried to set off a far more deadly device between the State House and the State Library.

Working then from the press room which was on that side of the building, the state police told us if it had gone off as planned it would have brought down that side of the building.

Outside New Hampshire, it appears there is one mass shooting after another and people are growing numb to the tragedies and the loss of innocent lives.

Saturday was particularly concerning as a man with an AR-15 killed five of his neighbors in Cleveland, Texas, including an eight-year old boy. The police said the five people were shot “execution style.”
Their crime: they asked 39-year old Francisco Oropeza to stop shooting his gun in his yard so a baby could sleep.

It was not the first time his neighbors complained according to police reports.

A little closer to home in Maine, four people were killed by Joseph Eaton 34, who had been released the day before from prison. The dead included his parents and two of their friends visiting their Bowdoin home.

Eaton traveled to Yarmouth and began shooting at cars on a highway and hitting three family members in a van, one who was in critical condition.

This has been a very deadly year as an estimated 13,721 people died from gun violence according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Suicides by guns are more than half the total at 7,854.  

Along with the deaths, 10,771 people were injured to date this year by gun violence, according to the web site.

The yearly totals approached 60,000 in 2017, but dropped significantly in 2019, only to begin going up the last few years.

Last year the total deaths from gun violence were 44,353 according to the website.

While the opponents to greater restrictions always say it is not the gun that kills someone it is the person, but what is not part of that equation is what if the person cannot buy, steal of beg a gun.

States with the backing of some big money operations have been doing away with restrictions as occurred in New Hampshire, not imposing new ones except in places like Washington state and Colorado.

A Fox News, repeat a Fox News poll reported:

87 percent of participants favor background checks before someone purchases a gun;

81 percent want existing gun laws enforced;

81 percent want the legal age to purchase a gun raised to 21 years old;

80 percent want to ban assault weapons; 

and only 45 percent want more citizens carrying guns.

Other polls show strong support for red flag laws that allow confiscation of guns if someone is in an agitated emotional or depressed state.

If support for greater restrictions are so high, why don’t more legislatures or the federal government act?
One reason has to do with money gushing into campaigns by firearms manufacturers thanks to the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the other has to do with gerrymandering like here in New Hampshire.

And gun rights have become a partisan issue with the GOP opposing any significant changes to existing law, and most Democrats pushing for changes.

But if you have a legislature that does not reflect the true will of the people, then you have a government with minority rule or you might say tyranny of the minority.

When Democrats controlled the House and Senate in New Hampshire several years ago, bills were passed for waiting periods and background checks, but were vetoed by Sununu.

Now you will not see any new gun restrictions pass the legislature as the new Senate and House districts favor Republicans, the Senate more than the House, but in both bodies the total number of votes for Democratic candidates were more than the number of votes for Republican candidates.

But the end result was Republicans hold a commanding 14-10 majority in the Senate and a one- to four-vote majority in the House depending on how special elections go.

A recent report indicates that Republicans control 29 State Houses by significant enough margins to ensure the party’s agenda goes forward.

Yet in the last eight presidential elections going back to 1992 when Bill Clinton beat incumbent President George Bush, in only one presidential contest did a Republican win the popular vote and that was 2004 when incumbent President George W. Bush defeated US Sen. John Kerry.

Elections matter, but nowadays who gets to vote and how the political boundaries are drawn determines the outcome as much if not more than the popular vote and the tyranny of the minority trumps the will of the people.

Despite four-out-of-five people wanting greater firearm restrictions, that is not going to happen in today’s political landscape.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.

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